“This project was born out of the pandemic and fuelled by the drive to create a space that people could come to and forget about the insanity of the world for a minute – a place to completely surrender to the moment,” says Los Angeles-based artist Shawn Button.
Located 60 kilometres from Palm Springs, California and bordering Joshua Tree National Park, The Meltdown is a residence like no other. This home – which can be rented through Airbnb – provides mesmerising, panoramic views of the mountains, boulders and “vast stretches of nothing,” describes Button. The scenery immediately convinced the artist to tackle the challenge of renovating the structure, which dates back to 1959 and combines modern and mid-century styles.
“When I visited the property for the first time, I immediately got the feeling that this might be ‘the one’ and started to look around for a sign,” Button remembers. “I gazed downward and saw a pair of dice in the sand. The rest is history.”
Six months of work were needed to bring to life this unique place that is an invitation to an almost surreal world where the senses awaken through a mix of art and nature.
“I started designing the space at the height of [the Covid-19] pandemic, during the summer surge of 2020,” Button says. “I remember there was this insatiable need for people to get out of their homes and travel, but so many of us were stuck. My design was inspired by escapism, alternate worlds and the dream realm.” The interior spaces comprise three bedrooms, each with its own tone: purple, light blue and pink.
“The palette was inspired by a reverse sunset,” Button shares. “I love the colours that appear eastward in the sky right after the sun goes down beyond the horizon. I spent a lot of time observing the subtle shifts in the sky because I wanted the colour choices to feel as atmospheric as the surrounding landscape.”
Adorned with vintage tiles, the bathrooms also give the feeling of being in a surrealist oasis, far away and protected from daily life. All the areas of the house reflect Button’s limitless creativity and talent for having made a sort of art installation of this bungalow. Some outdoor areas were added, such as the covered patio, characterised by its arches and circular openings that balance with the angles and square shapes in other parts of the property. Set close to the al fresco shower, the cactus garden is a perfect spot to admire the beauty of the landscape, in addition to the Jacuzzi that grants exceptional vistas of the national park and the famous Kellogg Doolittle house designed by architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere that encouraged an exploration of the dream realm within oneself, while offering a sense of liberation guided by art and design,” says Button, who designed and created most of the lighting fixtures and art pieces. Meanwhile, the eclectic furniture (such as the Memphis-style stools that evoke the sun) is either vintage or locally sourced.
The materials were chosen to withstand the harsh desert environment, while also being visually or texturally smooth. “I like to play with high contrasts when designing, and I was attracted to the ruggedness of the surrounding landscape against the soft textures, curves and lines I incorporated into the design,” adds Button.
Working across several disciplines, the artist – who is currently developing a body of sculptural pieces and a series of short films to be released this year – is not afraid of experimenting and taking risks to push creativity further. “When life gives you dice, roll them,” he concludes.
Photography by Brandon Stanley